That’s what I found myself wondering after reading Neal Peirce‘s report from the Global Metro Summit, which was held earlier this month in Chicago (it was hosted by the Brookings Institution, the London School of Economics and Political Science, the Alfred Herrhausen Society and TIME Magazine).
The summit convened urban leaders from around the world to discuss how cities can reinvent themselves, growing their economies by becoming centers of innovation for a low-carbon future.
Peirce writes on Citiwire about the speech delivered by Bruce Katz, of Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program (video below). Katz has been one of the most articulate proponents of the idea that investment in metro areas is essential in developing a sustainable economy that is driven by investment in green technology. He has also often noted how the United States treats its metro areas like stepchildren, starving them of resources. As Peirce writes:
The American nation went off the track, Katz suggested in impassioned remarks, “by elevating consumption over production, financial chicanery over real innovation, near-term speculation over long-term growth. We lost our way and got the economy, and the Great Recession, we deserved.”
The cure, he asserted: with metros as the engines of our growth and recovery, to spark a “next” American economy “driven by exports, powered by low carbon, fueled by innovation, and rich with opportunity” — an economy that “actually works for working families.”…
An aggressive, metro-based U.S. export economy, Katz and others argued, should focus heavily on energy-efficient, non-polluting products to meet the competition of China as it rushes to become the planet’s top green producer.
One wonders — Do we have the vision for all this? The federal government’s counsel or aid for individual metros is sketchy at best; in fact Washington most typically ignores regions’ economic potential while squandering hundreds of billions on crop subsidies or the increasingly irrelevant home mortgage interest deduction. State governments, for their part, rarely help their big city regions, even though prospering metros are indispensable backbones of their tax structures.
As Peirce notes, the rise of the Tea Party and its influence in Congress will likely only make things worse. In the rhetoric of the burgeoning culture wars, “green jobs” and “livable cities” are fighting words. And the battle is on.